Like Gregory Bateson, Roy Wagner leaves no heirs. This is not the curse of
Souw, but the curse of original thinking. Like Bateson though, Wagner has
bequeathed to a future anthropology a certain style of thinking about Others,
an elegant way of dislocating the Western self from its routines, its kinships,
its ego, its diaspora. In this paper, and as a student of Wagner’s at
Virginia in the 1980s and 1990s, I hope to trace some of Wagner’s work
through Bateson’s and to compare some of the habits of mind of these two
ethnographers and theorists and relate these back to The Invention of Culture.
If I seem to forget that text in places or re-start it in others, it is
because I have tried to stay close to that topic that led both in such opposite (one could say complementary schizmogenic) directions, one to biological
sciences, the other to science fiction. I section off observations on
their ethnographic theory by using poetry to express shifts in topics for, at
their best, Wagner and Bateson are poets of that extreme human condition
so sought after by ethnographers, culture shock.